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Special Subjects

All single honours students take a Special Subject in their final year. These examine a historical topic in detail using primary as well as secondary sources.

They are taught in weekly 2-hour seminar classes over two terms. There may be a preliminary meeting during the summer term of the previous academic year and students are often expected to undertake some preparatory reading during the summer vacation.

Unless otherwise stated, Special Subjects are assessed by one 3-hour examination and one long essay of 10,000 words. Additional unassessed coursework and/or student presentations may also be required. BA Ancient History & Egyptology students may take the taught element of an ancient history Special Subject for 1 unit (examination only), with the compulsory 10,000-word dissertation. Finalists may choose their Special Subject from the menu of ‘Group 3’ modules available from other colleges.

The modules below are due to run in the 2020/21 academic year:

Please note: This module description is accurate at the time of publication. Amendments may be made prior to the start of the academic year.

 

A Perfect Dictatorship? State and Society in Mexico, 1940-1982

DR THOM RATH

Before Mexico descended into the mayhem of the Drug War, it experienced a strange form of authoritarianism- what the novelist Mario Vargas Llosa called 'the perfect dictatorship'. With civilian leaders, nationalist rhetoric, regular (and fraudulent) elections, and apparently broad popular support, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governed Mexico for decades; it bucked Latin American trends for coups and civil war, prefigured regimes of ‘electoral authoritarianism’ around the world, and left a profound legacy in Mexico. 

This course has three main objectives. First, we will explore how and why the PRI dominated Mexico for so long, and who really wielded power in this peculiar system. Was rule violent or consensual, inclusive or exclusive? Was this regime either revolutionary or institutional? Second, we will use Mexico as a historical laboratory to explore critical twentieth-century themes: the global impact of WWII; the Cold War and US hegemony; ideas of national ‘development’; the New Left and the counterculture; spiralling urbanization and accelerating ecological crisis; violence and rise of the human rights; the remaking of race and gender hierarchies; the origins of neoliberalism. In doing so, we will challenge the idea that Mexico has been backward or marginal, and consider how it has been at the forefront of major global processes. Finally, we will trace how this history continues to shape contemporary conflicts over drugs, migration, and historical memory. The course introduces students to a lively and growing historiographical field, and draws on diverse primary sources: diplomatic dispatches, spy reports, memoirs, interviews, film, photography, and cartoons. More broadly, we will consider the opportunities and difficulties of researching the recent history of a place where access to archives is fitful, tens of thousands of people have recently been ‘disappeared’, and journalists are murdered at world-leading rates.
 

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module codes: 

HIST0699: 30 credits
HIST0188: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0699: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0188: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Between Order and Disorder: Cities in the Late Medieval Mediterranean World

DR PATRICK LANTSCHNER

This Special Subject explores the tension between order and disorder in the great cities of the late medieval Mediterranean world – Cairo and Milan, Venice and Jerusalem, Damascus and Florence. We will contrast and compare cities across the Mediterranean world during an era which saw violent confrontations, but also economic and cultural exchange between the different civilisations which met in the region of the Great Sea.

Cities stood at the heart of these interactions. They became the centres of emerging states, stood at the crossroads of networks of contact and exchange, and were sites of major new directions in art and culture. However, underneath the picture of order, harmony and progress were high levels of conflict and fragmentation which manifested themselves through frequent revolts and civil wars, the marginalisation of particular social groups, and religious divisions that culminated in outbreaks of violence. We investigate the degree to which such apparent disorder was itself an ordinary feature of life in cities, and explore the political, social and religious systems which lay behind the complexity of urban life in the Mediterranean world.

Rather than investigating them in isolation from each other, cities will be studied from an integrated perspective that considers connections and comparisons across real and perceived divides between Islamic and Christian civilizations, as well as national and linguistic boundaries. We shall especially focus on Italy and the Near East, the Mediterranean world’s most urbanised regions, but we will also look at Iberia and the Ottoman Empire. Our sources range across the writings of prominent thinkers from these cities such as Machiavelli and Ibn Khaldun, chronicles and narratives, governmental and court records, and the wealth of surviving visual and material evidence.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module codes: 

HIST0106: 30 credits
HIST0320: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0106: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0320: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Abraham Lincoln and the Crisis of the Union, 1854-1865

DR DAVID SIM

The Civil War remains the defining event in American history. Over 600,000 combatants died in a conflict that ravaged the United States for four years and challenged the very survival of the nation. Union victory eradicated slavery, bringing the entire nation, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, a “new birth of freedom.” When Lincoln spoke those words he had in mind the renewed republican freedom of white Americans at least as much as the freedom of black slaves, yet emancipation appears to bestow on this war to save the Union a nobility not accorded to the other nationalist wars of the nineteenth century. America’s greatest moral, political and constitutional crisis therefore raises profound questions. Why did the pre-war Union prove unable to tolerate the plural visions and diverse institutions of its people? Was the descent into war more a measure of institutional weakness than of the intensity of moral conflict? Why did southern slaveholders believe they could defy the anti-slavery movements that had swept the western world in the nineteenth century and establish an independent republic? Why did ordinary men from North and South join up to fight this war, and why and with what consequences did some refuse to do so? What were the constituent elements of the competing wartime ‘nationalisms’ that evolved north and south? How and why did a war over the Union become a war about slavery and emancipation? How far was it the forerunner of modern ‘total’ warfare? What realistic chance had the Confederacy’s bid for freedom? Did the governmental, socio-economic and racial changes wrought by the war constitute a “second American revolution”? And how did the great crisis in America relate to broader nineteenth century liberal and nationalist movements? What, in the end, does it tell us about state formation, modernity and the power of religious and moral reform movements in nineteenth century society? The consistent thread in our discussions will be the figure of Lincoln: a man whose enigmatic qualities, whose own spiritual and political journey, and whose life experience as a frontier lawyer turned most unlikely of presidents, will often serve as a way into the wider issues.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

HIST0116: 30 credits
HIST0324: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0116: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0324: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

American Political Thought

DR NADIA HILLARD

This advanced undergraduate seminar will give students a solid foundation in the classics of political thought in the United States from the Pre-Revolutionary period to the present.  The readings will expose students to a range of recurring themes in American political thinking, and explore how liberalism, race, religion, and capitalism each relate to, and have shaped, democracy in a distinctive way in the United States.  It will also expose students to a range of voices: the syllabus places the arguments of African American and Native American thinkers in dialogue with traditionally ‘canonical’ texts. (This module can be linked to the dissertation for students writing a compulsory final year undergraduate dissertation, and will include a set of dissertation writing workshops.)

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

AMER0058: 30 credits
AMER0061: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), you will take your dissertation within the Institute of Americas, however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the Institute of Americas dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

AMER0058: 5,000-word take-home examination (100%)
AMER0061: 10,000-word Institute of Americas dissertation (100%)

 

Ivan the Terrible and the Russian Monarchy in the Sixteenth Century

DR SERGEI BOGATYREV

Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584), the first Russian ruler who assumed the title of tsar, is known as one of the most controversial figures in Russian history. Was Ivan’s reign essential for the transformation of the principality of Moscow into a multiethnic empire? Or was this period just a series of sporadic acts of a madman? Was Ivan running the show or was he a puppet in the hands of influential court clans? What do we know about Ivan’s personality and how do we know what we think we know? This course will introduce students to the political, social, cultural, and economic aspects of Ivan’s reign. To put Ivan’s rule in a wider historical and cultural context, we will also examine the reigns of his immediate predecessors and successors, Vasilii III (1505-1533) and Fedor Ivanovich (1584-1598). Care will also be taken to examine Russia’s place in the sixteenth-century international system and to compare the development of the Russian monarchy with contemporary early modern European states. The latter part of the course will concentrate on various interpretations of the reign of Ivan the Terrible offered by historians, writers, and artists. We will examine how the image of Ivan IV evolved from the sixteenth to the twenty first century, from Western Renaissance travel literature and the ideologists of early Romanovs, through Stalinist historiography and the famous film of Sergei Eisenstein, to the latest revisionist and post-modernist interpretations and the extravagant attempts to canonize Ivan. The set texts for the course, all available in English translation, include chronicles, legal codes, edicts, administrative records, polemical works, legal charters, household rules, proceedings of church councils, epistles, diplomatic papers, foreign accounts. The sources utilised during the course will also include a large amount of visual material, like works of iconpainting, architecture, portraits, engravings, and films. Students are expected to contribute actively to classes in the form of tutor- and student-led discussions, class presentations, seminar papers, short reports and a long essay.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

HIST0781: 30 credits
HIST0783: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0781: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0783: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Intellectual History From Below; Indios, Africans, and Women in the Iberian World 1500-1700

DR CHLOE IRETON

Africans, the African Diaspora, indigenous Americans, mestizos, women, Muslims, Jews, conversos, and moriscos shaped the intellectual life of early Iberian empires in myriad ways. For example, in 1615, Felipe Huaman Poma de Ayala, a Quechua nobleman from Peru, published the New Chronicle and Good Government, which presented a Catholic theological world-view that incorporated indigenous Americans as equals in the Iberian world. Another example is an extraordinary sixteenth-century manuscript called The Codex Tepetlaoztoc, housed at the British Museum. The codex was commissioned by the indigenous inhabitants of Tepetlaoztoc (in present-day Mexico) as a lawsuit brought by Tepetlaoztoc against the town's Spanish encomenderos. The manuscript presents an entire worldview that deepens our understandings of New Spain and the Spanish empire in the sixteenth century. The Codex represents the strategies that a particular community employed to navigate Iberian imperial law that was imposed on them, in particular to complain of abusive encomenderos, who exacted tribute in the form of services and goods from the population in return for supposedly supervising the town’s Christian conversion. The Codex shows a community’s attempt to re-shape their own lives, communities, and Iberian law through a royal petition to a distant monarch.

Collectively, we will grapple with how to define intellectual history, and ask whether it is useful to think about “intellectual history from below.” Members of the seminar will gain an acute awareness of the stakes of writing history and who gets to define the cannon, and the epistemic violence of how historiographical currents often silence and render invisible certain intellectual traditions. Seminars explore how different colonial subjects attempted (and sometimes succeeded) to shape the worlds that they lived in by reading core primary sources in translation that allow us to explore the lives, experiences, and ideas of different colonial subjects in the Iberian world. Positioning diverse groups as intellectuals who shaped Iberian empires and the broader Atlantic world, we analyse their intellectual histories through an inter-disciplinary approach to works that they produced or the archival traces that they left. These readings will introduce students to various genres of primary sources that include: written traces in legal documents, religious treatises, contemporaneous histories, artifacts, art, literary epics, legal petitions to a distant monarch, geographical histories, inquisition cases, cartography, codices, art, and written correspondence.

The Special Subject module also will prepare students to develop independent dissertation research projects for the 10,000 word history research dissertation for HIST0807 on any topics that intersect with the early Iberian World.

Seminar topics include:
*Indigenous Perspectives of the Spanish Conquest;
*Imperial Power Structures: Navigating Colonial Law;
*Catholicism, Race, and Blackness: Focus on Juan Latino and Sixteenth-century Granada; *Centers and Peripheries: Tracing lives and social histories in the early Caribbean;
*Urban life and Gender: focus on Viceroyalty of Peru: Potosi and Lima;
*Redefining Intellectual history: Focus on Indigenous Intellectuals;
*Tracing Intellectual Histories of the African Diaspora in the Spanish Americas;
*Methods in Social History: Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Colonial Spanish America; *Women, Gender, and Theology. Focus on New Spain and the Andes.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module codes:

HIST0796: 30 credits
HIST0807: 30 credits

Note: Both 30-credit modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0796: Portfolio of Written Work (100%)*
HIST0807: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

*Summative Assessment: The Summative Assessment for the Special Subject (HIST0796) is a portfolio of written work that analyzes an array of primary sources (selected from the Special Subject’s Core Texts) through the lens of the key themes of the seminar. The portfolio has the following components: 
 
Q1 Primary Source Analysis I (1250 words) 12.5% 
Q2 Primary Source Analysis II (1250 words) 12.5% 
Q3 Thematic Essay I (2500 words).  25% 
Q4 Thematic Essay II (2500 words) 25% 
Q5 Methodological / Theoretical Essay (2500 words). 25%
 

Monarchs and the Enlightenment in Russia and Central Europe

PROFESSOR SIMON DIXON; PROFESSOR RICHARD BUTTERWICK-PAWLIKOWSKI

This course requires students to relate two bodies of primary source material, studied in English translation. The first comprises major texts in the history of European political ideas, beginning with Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws (1748) and encompassing classic works by Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments (1764), Rousseau, Considerations on the Government of Poland (1772), Voltaire, Diderot and Kant. The second body of sources concerns Enlightened reforms pursued by the five monarchs covered by the course: Catherine the Great of Russia (r. 1762-1796), Stanisław-August of Poland-Lithuania (1764-95), Frederick the Great of Prussia (r. 1740-86), and two rulers of the Habsburg Empire: Maria Theresa (r. 1740-80) and her son Joseph II (r. 1765-90). How far, and in what ways, did these monarchs draw on Enlightened ideas in shaping their reforms? How far is it plausible to think of a unitary model of ‘Enlightened despotism’? The approach throughout is comparative, exploring, in particular, the relationship between crown and nobility, the question of serfdom, favouritism and its critics, religious toleration, and judicial and educational reform.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module codes:

HIST0481: 30 credits
HIST0502: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0481: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0502: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Great Britain and the American Colonies 1760-1776

PROFESSOR STEPHEN CONWAY

This course examines the recurring conflicts between British governments and colonial North Americans between the conquest of French Canada and the Declaration of Independence that created the United States.  The teaching is based on consideration of primary sources that illustrate the breakdown in the relationship.  On the British side, we follow the formulation of new policies and the debate stimulated by American resistance.  From the colonial perspective, we see how grievances were articulated, how the colonies mobilized to oppose British measures, and how Americans eventually made claims to a new status.

Though the focus of the course is political culture and political conflict, students may write their dissertations on any aspect of the American Revolution.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module codes:

HIST0107: 30 credits
HIST0321: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0107: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0321: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Urban Culture and Modernity: Vienna-Prague-Budapest, 1857-1938

DR JAKUB BENEŠ

This course examines the history of major cities in the Habsburg monarchy and its successor states during the period of classical modernity. It will focus on the emergence of a particularly modern urban culture in Central Europe around the turn of the century, and study some of its proponents in detail. Taking turn-of-the-century Vienna as a starting point, the seminar will discuss the emergence of leading modernist movements and ideas in the ‘backward’ Habsburg empire. We will look at aspects of Vienna’s, Prague’s, and Budapest’s urban landscape and culture, and study these in a comparative way. Students will examine the development of capital cities as centres for the arts and popular culture, science and technology, industry and commerce; and analyse their architecture as well as features of every-day urban life. We will study some of the main ideas that constituted ‘modernity’, and look at intellectual circles and networks of avant-garde artists that promoted these ideas. The different forms of nationalism and antisemitism that emerged within Central European cities will be another focus of the seminar. The course will make students familiar both with urban history and cultural and intellectual history. To this end, a wide range of sources will be used, from specialised academic literature to diaries, memoirs, and novels; from maps and photographs to reproductions of modernist art and architecture.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

SEHI0008: 30 credits
SEHI0014: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0782: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0742: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Competitive Men: The Politics of Competition in Ancient Greece

DR PAOLA CECCARELLI

The course focuses on competition (understood in a broad sense) within the ancient Greek world. Ever since the seminal work of Jacob Burckhardt (first published posthumously 1898), ancient Greece has been considered as a particularly competitive society. Competition traverses it at all levels, areas, and chronological periods: from the Iliadic injunction ‘to be bravest and pre-eminent above all’ (6.208; 11.784) to the competitive drinking and the poetic challenges of the symposion, from athletic competitions (the Olympic Games!) to dances and female beauty contests, from success in the lawcourts to conspicuous display of inherited wealth, relationships were dominated by an intense rivalry, that applied also at the level of international relations. And yet, this competitiveness could be harnessed, in specific situations, so as to consolidate the social fabric. On the basis of an ample selection of texts covering various genres (epic, lyric, comedy and tragedy, historiography, oratory, and documentary texts such as inscriptions) we shall examine the forms competition took, how widespread it was (was it a feature of elites, or did also the poorer citizen participate in this ‘culture of competition’? Is it really a defining feature of the Greek world?), the ways in which it was regulated, and how the polis could turn this to an advantage for the collective.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module codes:

HIST0099: 30 credits
HIST0609: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0099: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0609: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Life Writing: Memory and Identity in Twentieth Century Europe

DR DIANA GEORGESCU

After decades of focusing on structures and broad processes in history and society, history has since the 1980s taken a turn to write the personal back into history. Familiarizing students with the biographical turn in history as well as in the social sciences and humanities more broadly, this module will explore the ways in which modern lives were experienced, remembered, and narrated in the turbulent 20th century. We will draw on a wide range of life narratives, whether biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, oral histories, diaries, or letters, to examine the possibilities and limits of the genre for writing the history of modern Europe, particularly its eastern margins. Rather than focusing on 'important' people such as leaders or politicians, we will deal with ordinary men and women, whose lives did not unfold under conditions of their own making, but who nevertheless claimed agency in the process of living and writing history.

Many of the readings assigned for class discussion focus on Eastern Europe and Soviet Russia and/or are produced by actors from the region. The sources are clustered around some of the major historical developments of the twentieth century: the two World Wars, the Russian Revolution, the Holocaust, the Cold War division of Europe, and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. As a result, the readings provide insights into the twentieth century as a period of rapid political change and social displacement, which altered our notions of time and space and led to increasingly fragmented lives. They also raise broader theoretical questions that students are encouraged to further pursue in their dissertations. These include questions about the relation between identity and memory, memory-making and history-writing, remembering and forgetting, or about the epistemological and moral dilemmas of recovering 'buried memories' or 'silenced voices'. Because these questions have been at the centre of not only historical, but also literary and anthropological research, our exploration of the twentieth century through the lens of ego-documents will be an interdisciplinary venture intended to train students as self-reflexive historians.
 

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

HIST0640: 30 credits
HIST0482: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0640: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0482: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Mechanisms of Power: Running the Roman Empire (c. 70BC - AD275)

DR BENET SALWAY

What held Rome’s provincial empire together through political revolution, civil wars, and crises of succession? This module focuses on the administration and management of this international empire of the pre-industrial age. Past interpretations of the functioning of the Roman imperial state favoured constitutional analysis or viewed it as a thin façade to mask subjection by military force; more recent scholarship has tended to seek explanation for the relative longevity and stability of Rome’s imperial dominion in the late republic and principate in less tangible phenomena: e.g. ‘honour’ (Ted Lendon) and the establishment of ‘legitimacy’, reinforced by ‘charisma’ (Clifford Ando). These and other interpretations are tested against an in-depth analysis of the workings of the organs of the city of Rome as they were adapted to imperial responsibilities, both in terms of the formal administrative structures and their functioning in practice. 

While the Roman imperial system has been likened to the Thatcherite ideal of ‘government without bureaucracy’, it was certainly not a government without paperwork. The core of this module comprises the study of selections from the considerable volume of surviving documents produced in the dialogue between the central government, its provincial representatives, citizens, and subjects. Deliberately eschewing the position of Augustus and his successors as the sole reference point for the system by which Rome governed her empire, the starting point for the investigation is placed in the post-Sullan period. The end is drawn with the provincialisation of Italy, which heralded the beginning of the establishment of a new order in which urbs Roma was now part of rather than mistress over her empire. All source material will be read in translation but in parallel with the original language so that, although Latin or Greek for Beginners is not a prerequisite for this module, those with these skills will be encouraged to exercise them.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

HIST0093: (30 credits)
HIST0312: (30 credits)

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0093: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0312: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Passages to Jerusalem: The Crusades and the Medieval World, 1095-1291

DR ANTONIO SENNIS

Few features of the Middle Ages are as familiar, even to the most profane of observers, as the series of expeditions which, throughout the 12th and the 13th centuries, aimed at establishing Christian control of the holy lands. Although the word crusades was not used in the Middle Ages, in the course of the centuries the term has become a powerful tool to evoke policies and aspirations of an entire society. This course aims at observing these expeditions, and the world in which they took place, from a cultural perspective. In doing so, we will shed light to some key aspects of Western European society in the 12th and 13th centuries, such as the religious and political ambitions of the papacy; the new devotional aspirations of the laity; the development of a chivalric culture; the cultural expansion of parts of Western Europe.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

HIST0104: 30 credits
HIST0318: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0104: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0318: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Apartheid's Collapse and the New South Africa

DR TIM GIBBS

In this course we will follow the life histories of African migrants – amongst them female textile hands, male miners and steelworkers; prosperous bus owners and traders, poor hawkers; cannabis smugglers, cattle rustlers, and carjackers – who flooded into (and circulated between) South Africa’s cities in the final decades of apartheid. Drawing of a rich diet of sources, including government and NGO reports, memoirs and interviews, students can pick up a number of interrelated historical debates concerning the relationship between labour migration, industrial modernity and apartheid. One major issue is the question of historical geography. Following the precepts of modernist planning, South Africa’s industrial cities were spatially segregated during the era of High Apartheid, with African migrant workers forced to the margins, denied permanent urban residence. We will consider how new flows of African migration ripped open these boundaries of spatial segregation, disembowelling South Africa’s cities into the sprawling conurbations of today. A second set of questions concerns popular movements. In the 1970s, radical historians hailed African migrants as an emerging, industrial, working class, and celebrated trade unions’ challenge to apartheid capitalism. We will see how popular politics was reconfigured by South Africa’s industrial decline in the 1980s, and the proliferation of kin-based, informal livelihoods and life-ways. Third, we will consider changing definitions of citizenship. As older patterns of segregation collapsed amidst township revolts, the white minority government attempted – but ultimately failed – to stabilise, settle and incorporate these new streams of migrant workers into a reformed apartheid order. To what extent have successive post-apartheid governments, in an age of jobless economic growth, managed to settle the mobile poors who live in shack settlements, quite literally on the peripheries of South African society? Finally, there are comparative questions, with Johannesburg and Durban often compared to Mumbai, Rio and Lagos. What might deeper histories of rural-urban migration add to contemporary debates about de-industrialisation, globalisation and the growing “Megacities” of the Global South?

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

HIST0555: 30 credits
HIST0129: 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0555: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0129: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

The British civil wars and interregnum

PROFESSOR JASON PEACEY

The decades of the British civil wars and interregnum continue to exert a profound grip on the popular imagination, as well as a powerful influence over at least some aspects of contemporary politics, and this course will explore what is unquestionably one of the most exciting, complex and contentious periods in our history, and one that boasts some of its most controversial and charismatic individuals, from Charles I and Cromwell to John Milton and John Lilburne. It will explore how and why Britain experienced civil war during the 1640s, and the political and religious ramifications during the late 1640s and 1650s, when Britain witnessed a republic, a written constitution, and the emergence of a ‘fiscal-military state’ and a major world power. Students will trace the political and religious changes in Britain during the mid-seventeenth century; engage with political, constitutional, and religious ideas, both mainstream and radical; examine elite and popular politics, both nationally and locally; explore issues and factors determining political consciousness, motivation and allegiance across the social and political spectrum; trace the emergence of new institutional structures and media; and assess the period’s historical significance and influence.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

HIST0114: 30 credits
HIST0322 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0114: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0322: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Personal Testimonies of Twentieth Century Britain

DR REBECCA JENNINGS

Telling stories about oneself and expressing intimate emotions, desires and experiences has become a defining feature of modern life. This course will explore the historical development of this urge to confess in twentieth-century Britain. We will examine a range of forms of personal testimony from letters, diaries and autobiographies, to medical case histories, documentaries and oral histories. Each of these media allowed the narrator to shape their stories in particular ways and offer specific challenges and opportunities to the historian. How, for example, did letters home from the Front in the First World War provide possibilities for certain types of narrative while inhibiting others? Could soldiers tell their families about their experiences of fear and physical discomfort or did they construct accounts of courage and patriotism? We will consider the historical conditions which prompted a culture of personal testimonies and how the telling of intimate stories has facilitated the development of a politics of identity in modern Britain. The accounts we will study demonstrate the diversity of experience and identity in twentieth-century Britain, exploring accounts of sexual marginalisation, racial discrimination, feminist activism and ‘ordinary’ working-class life. The Special Subject will prepare students to develop dissertation topics on Modern British History and using a variety of written, oral and visual sources. 

 

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

HIST0537: 30 credits
HIST0xxx (Code Pending) 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0537: Portfolio of Written Work (100% each)*
HIST0xxx (Code Pending): 10,000-word dissertation (100%)


*The summative assessment will be a portfolio comprised of the following pieces of coursework:

  •  Two essays of 2500 words each (25% each)
  •  Two portfolio assignments of 1500 words (15% each)
  •  Two primary source analyses of 1000 words each (10% each)

These will each be marked separately (1 of each in each term).

Race and Resistance in Black Atlantic Thought

DR KATE QUINN

This course examines the currents of thought developed by Black intellectuals and activists in the twentieth century ‘Black Atlantic’. Ranging from the Pan-Africanist movement of the early twentieth century to the anti-systemic critique offered by Rastafarianism in the 1960s and 1970s, the course explores key issues that animated thinking about the condition of the Black diaspora in the modern world. These include themes of individual and collective identity; colonialism and anti-colonialism; capitalism and socialism; racism and discrimination; and the relationship with Africa and the wider ‘Third World’. The course pays attention to the transnational dynamics stimulating the development of political thought and activism in the Black diaspora, as well as the differences and tensions that fragmented unitary visions of global Black solidarity. Primary sources for the course include key texts and speeches of the authors, audio-visual sources (SUCH AS recorded speeches, archival news footage, documentary and music) and where relevant State Department and Foreign and Colonial Office documents.

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

AMER0077: Assessment (100%)
AMER0061: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0556: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0131: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

The Age of Religious Wars

DR BEN KAPLAN

This course examines three of the greatest conflicts of early modern Europe: the Dutch Revolt (1566-1648), the Thirty Years’ War in Germany (1618-1648), and the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598).  Historians generally consider all three conflicts to have been ‘religious wars’, characteristic of an age when Europe was riven by fierce religious enmities.  This module examines the conflicts comparatively.  Its goal is to understand the common structural issues behind the different conflicts, and the different trajectories followed by France, Germany, and the Netherlands as they emerged from their wars. These were long, complex conflicts, so to make the material of the module manageable, in any given year only two of the three conflicts will be treated in depth through readings and discussion, and in their final examination students will only be responsible for those two conflicts.  In 2020-2021 the two will be the Thirty Years’ War and the Dutch Revolt.  For their dissertations, though, students can focus on any one of the three wars, or any combination. 

We will pay particular attention to how Europe’s religious divisions combined in explosive ways with efforts to change the distribution of political power. We will consider questions such as: What is a ‘religious’ war, and is it different from other sorts of war?  What roles did religion play in early modern social, political, and cultural life?  To what extent did these conflicts involve new modes of communication and forms of mobilisation?  How were these intractible conflicts brought to an end?  And how successful were the resulting settlements in keeping the peace?  

Module type: Special Subject

Level: 6

Module code:

HIST0120: 30 credits
HIST0328 30 credits

Note: Both modules are usually taken together (60 credits in total), however, it may be possible for students to take a free-standing dissertation in place of the dissertation attached to the Special Subject.

Assessment methods:

HIST0120: 3-hour examination (100%)
HIST0328: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)

Free-standing dissertation

In exceptional circumstances, the Director of Teaching may give approval for a final-year History student to write a free-standing dissertation (30 credits), either in addition to OR in place of a UCL History Special Subject dissertation. If you are considering this option, you MUST refer to the relevant section of the Module Guidance document. This document can be found on the History Undergraduate e-Handbook.

Please note that it is not possible to write a free-standing dissertation in place of the Special Subject dissertation for modules taught at other colleges.

Students wishing to take this option will be required to return an application form with an outline of the proposed project and the signature of their proposed supervisor to the Director of Teaching by Friday 22 May 2020. The application form will be emailed to students who indicate on their module choice form that they intend to take a free-standing dissertation.